Hurricane Harvey Aftermath
Worst natural disaster in Texas history
 impacts Filipino families;
Filipino community leaders respond
Mayor’s Emergency Rescue Task Force. Jennifer Cleveland and Leah Theys reported thatthe PACC RGV Chapter,working
closely with Filipino business establishments and churches, mobilized their members and established relief goods
collection centers at strategic locations in Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley. PACC Officials are
especially focused on helping Filipino victims in the very hard-hit cities of Rockport and Port Aransas. Last Sunday, the RGV
Filipino volunteers brought hundreds of bags of relief goods to the First Community Church in Corpus Christi, a largely
Filipino church, and along with the Filipino Association of Corpus Christi, attended a thanksgiving mass and distributed the
relief goods to Filipino church members who were impacted by the hurricane. Our RGV “heroes” are encouraged by the
massive outpouring of sympathy and donations.

PACC RGV board directors Randy Cleveland and Danny Theys hired 16-footer U-Haul trucks and delivered the relief goods
containing canned goods and personal hygiene supplies to Filipinos in the affected cities. Lawyer Randy Cleveland also
travelled to the affected areas, offering free legal services to expedite insurance claims and relief assistance from Federal
agencies.

Filipino community leaders in Houston who are themselves victims of the worst calamity ever seen in this the fourth largest
city in the U.S. and were virtual prisoners in their own homes for many days, did not take long to also mobilize and organize
relief efforts. After evacuating his family, Philippine American Chamber Houston Chapter Chairman Ricky Guinhawa joined
the storm-chasing team of his company, Centerpoint, which is the biggest supplier of electricity in metropolitan Houston.
Their job was to survey all the communities that lost power and to monitor power restoration efforts. PACC Texas president
Gary Ilagan braved the elements and showed up at his law firm by himself as the entire downtown Houston was flooded. He
also offered free legal services to Filipino victims of the deadly hurricane who may qualify for the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief for Immigrants.

Young Filipinos volunteered at their schools, churches and civic groups to assist with distribution of relief goods at
evacuation shelters. Anthony Guevara, Southern Region Chair of NaFFAA and the Filipino Young Professionals of Houston
believes the spirit of community will carry the people of Houston through these challenging times. He says, “In Houston, the
spirit of unity and collective action – bayanihan– can be seen in the selfless efforts of state and local officials, law
enforcement and plain citizens as they begin to rebuild. National Co-Director of Partnerships for NaFFAA Christy Panis
Poisot adds, “While many are experiencing loss and tragedy at this time, I have never been more proud to be a Houstonian.”
Pinoy Houston TV also monitored the calamity, issued public service announcements and posted the locations of
evacuation centers and relief goods drop-off points. Fil-Am groups in Houston and other cities are pitching in.

The tragedy has united the Filipino community in Texas in a way that has never been seen before in this state of almost
200,000 Filipinos. The most active Filipino organization in the state, the PACC Texas, has made a clarion call for unity and
collective action. Buoyed by overwhelming sympathy and tremendous enthusiasm for support generated by the disaster
nationwide, leaders are brainstorming programs that will benefit the victims, both Filipinos and non-Filipinos. Filipinos from
Dallas, Tyler, San Antonio, McAllen, Brownsville and Austin are sponsoring benefit concerts featuring the Madrigal Singers to
raise funds for Hurricane Harvey victims.

Philippine Government Commiserates
Through Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, the Philippine government expressed solidarity with
the Filipinos of Texas. In his message, he said: “Our hearts go out to the people of Houston, including the thousands of our
kababayan, who have to go through this terrible ordeal.” In a second message, Secretary Cayetano praised the many
Filipinos who volunteered and provided assistance. “We salute and thank our kababayans in the U.S. for keeping the spirit
of bayanihan alive,” he said. “We are touched by the gestures of members of the Filipino-American community who opened
their homes to those who lost theirs and are helping in one way or another our other affected kababayans."

Los Angeles Consul-General Adelio Angelito Cruz, who has jurisdiction over Texas, also sent a message of support. “The
Philippine Consulate General would like to commend the various Filipino-American volunteers and associations in Texas
who offered their time and resources, opened their homes, and donated relief goods to help those in need. In the spirit of
bayanihan,  Mabuhay po kayong lahat!”  Consul General Cruz also said that the Consulate General and the Honorary
Consulate in Texas remain on alert as the storm, which dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Metro Houston and
surrounding cities is expected to trigger catastrophic flooding in a matter of days.

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey reminded Houston Filipinos of a similar disaster in Louisiana 12 years ago, when tens of
thousands of flood victims were rendered homeless by Hurricane Katrina and evacuated to the George R. Brown Center in
Houston. The Houston Filipino leaders quickly searched for Filipino victims in the evacuation center and gave them private
housing, food and clothes.

Worst ever natural disaster in Texas and most of the U.S.
With more than 60 known dead and tens of thousands injured, 195,149 homes damaged or destroyed, over 1 million
people forced to evacuate their homes, and $125 billion in total damages according to Texas Governor Greg Abbot, there is
no doubt about the place of Hurricane Harvey in the history of disasters in Texas and the rest of the country. The scope of the
mega-storm’s destruction is unprecedented, which affected almost the entire southern half of Texas, whose geographical
land area is bigger than California’s.

Here is more on Hurricane Harvey by the numbers, as of this writing:  20 trillion gallons of rain water have fallen on the
Houston area, a staggering deluge that is enough water to supply New York City’s needs for over 5 decades; 42,000 people
in evacuation shelters; 200,000 customers without power; 120,000 residents without water in Beaumont, Texas; 395,000
people have registered for federal assistance; 10,000 people rescued by Federal and National Guard forces, plus countless
other Good Samaritan rescues; 900 calls to 9-11 per hour; over 2 million meals and liters of water distributed by FEMA as of
today; 10 Gulf Coast region refineries shut down, causing gas prices to skyrocket. The mega-storm and its aftermath may
have also destroyed more vehicles than any other natural disaster in U.S. history,  with an estimated 1 million vehicles
ruined along the Texas Coast, according to automotive data firm Black Book.

Taking the good with the bad
The overwhelmed Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner, a friend of the Filipino community, is to be commended for his best
efforts in holding his devastated city together and coordinating with all levels of government at the worst of times. He was
criticized in the beginning in hindsight for not ordering a mandatory evacuation of its residents. He later explained that
evacuating 6.7 people would be a logistical nightmare. But even the weather bureau admitted that they might have
underestimated the fury of the hurricane and the catastrophic flooding wrought by 52 inches of rain that smothered the city.
The giant storm unexpectedly lingered in the Houston area for days, exacerbating an already calamitous situation.

While hundreds of small churches opened their churches to evacuees, Joel Osteen, the famous Houston-based billionaire
preacher was pilloried in the social media for refusing to open his luxurious church doors to flood victims because “Houston
did not ask!”

Politicians led by President Donald Trump and wife Melania and Texas Governor Greg Abbot made their obligatory visits to
the devastated region last Tuesday.  The president skipped Houston which suffered the brunt of the Category 5 storm, and
showed up instead in Corpus Christi and Austin to praise and thank government officials and emergency responders but
did not make mention of the victims of the storm. In his widely-criticized speech which was filled with hyperboles about “the
epic, huge and worst catastrophic disaster he has ever seen”, the President failed to commiserate with the families of the
more than 50 dead, the injured and the hundreds of thousands who either lost their homes or suffered, and decided not to
tour the damage firsthand or meet the survivors. CNN reported: “There were the superlatives, the grand pronouncements,
the giant Texas flag, and the raving about the size of both the storm and the crowd that materialized to greet him. There was
also the decision not to visit areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey.”

In the face of the strong criticism that met his first visit, the President returned to Texas 4 days later to meet with survivors in
the Houston area. He and wife Melania served food at a shelter, did selfies and kissed babies, campaign-style. He also
asked the U.S. Congress for $7.9 billion in emergency funds for the afflicted region.

Taking the good with the bad
The overwhelmed Mayor of Houston Sylvester Turner, a friend of the Filipino community, is to be commended for his best
efforts in holding his devastated city together and coordinating with all levels of government at the worst of times. He was
criticized in the beginning in hindsight for not ordering a mandatory evacuation of its residents. He later explained that
evacuating 6.7 people would be a logistical nightmare. But even the weather bureau admitted that they might have
underestimated the fury of the hurricane and the catastrophic flooding wrought by 52 inches of rain that smothered the city.
The giant storm unexpectedly lingered in the Houston area for days, exacerbating an already calamitous situation.
While hundreds of small churches opened their churches to evacuees, Joel Osteen, the famous Houston-based billionaire
preacher was pilloried in the social media for refusing to open his luxurious church doors to flood victims because “Houston
did not ask!”

Politicians led by President Donald Trump and wife Melania and Texas Governor Greg Abbot made their obligatory visits to
the devastated region last Tuesday.  The president skipped Houston which suffered the brunt of the Category 5 storm, and
showed up instead in Corpus Christi and Austin to praise and thank government officials and emergency responders but
did not make mention of the victims of the storm. In his widely-criticized speech which was filled with hyperboles about “the
epic, huge and worst catastrophic disaster he has ever seen”, the President failed to commiserate with the families of the
more than 50 dead, the injured and the hundreds of thousands who either lost their homes or suffered, and decided not to
tour the damage firsthand or meet the survivors. CNN reported: “There were the superlatives, the grand pronouncements,
the giant Texas flag, and the raving about the size of both the storm and the crowd that materialized to greet him. There was
also the decision not to visit areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey.”

In the face of the strong criticism that met his first visit, the President returned to Texas 4 days later to meet with survivors in
the Houston area. He and wife Melania served food at a shelter, did selfies and kissed babies, campaign-style. He also
asked the U.S. Congress for $7.9 billion in emergency funds for the afflicted region.

Leave it to the Filipinos to overcome adversity with a sense of humor. Filipino attorney Romy B. Diaz sent this: “When
Hurricane Harvey heard that Donald Trump was coming to Texas, he quickly packed and left for Louisiana!”

For information on how Filipinos and friends of Filipinos throughout the U.S. can help may be obtained by contacting the
Philippine Consulate in L.A., by emailing
pacctexas@verizon.net or visiting the Philippine Chamber’s website at www.
pacctexas.org
or the PACC Houston Facebook page, or the the PACC RGV Facebook page.  Reactions to this article may be
sent to
gusmercado@verizon.net.
Deluge in Houston TX where 52 inches of rainwater fell in
4 days.
Waterworld: 20 trillion gallons of rain water fell on the
 entire region  
By Gus Mercado

“God please help me, am I going to die?”
cried Albert Saligumba as he desperately hanged on for dear life on the rooftop
of his submerged home on Tiki Island, near Galveston Texas. As the flood waters kept getting higher and darkness
continued to descend on the second day of his being trapped on the roof of his house, wet and cold from the wind-swept
rain,alone with no food and no means of communicating with other people, he prayed as he prepared to die. He only
survived by staying awake and drinking rain water that fell in massive doses on the entire island.  By dawn, the water
stopped rising and he was rescued. The year has not been kind to the 62-year old Filipino widow, who only last March lost
his new bride, Dr. Marilie Evangelista-Saligumba in a freak vehicular accident on Interstate 45 which connects Houston to
Dallas and Oklahoma. He was driving a truck full of Balikbayan boxes when he lost control of the vehicle and swerved into
the trees, killing his wife almost instantly.

Always thinking of others even if his own house was severely damaged and without flood insurance to fall back on, Albert
evacuated to Dallas, about 250 miles north of Houston, met with his friends in the Philippine American Chamber
of Commerce (PACC) Dallas Chapter and collected bags of relief goods which he later distributed to his neighbors in
Galveston.

There were other Filipinos who survived the killer hurricane who had similar horrific stories to tell. Many were reported to
have lost their homes, after themcatastrophic flooding that came in the aftermath of the hurricane was accompanied by six
tornadoes that destroyed everything in their paths. Approximately 7,000 homes owned by Filipino families were damaged,
many of them without flood insurance.
Rescuer carrying an Asian woman with
child.
Natural Survivors
The Filipinos have an uncanny ability to survive natural disasters, most of them
having personally experienced the wrath of killer typhoons, earthquakes and
massive floods in their own home provinces in the Philippines.  About 70,000
Filipinos live in Houston and neighboring cities that were also hit. By the grace
of God, there were no reported casualties among them. There were also no
reports of Filipinos being admitted at the major hospitals for serious injuries.  
The only reported cases of losses by Filipinos were damages to their homes,
vehicles and properties, and loss of power for many days.They also now worry
about contaminated water and chemical spills.

Concerned Filipino Texans to the Rescue
Filipino organizations in Texas showed that they cared deeply about the victims
of Hurricane Harvey. The Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Texas
with strong chapters in Dallas, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley was one of the first to provide rapid response to the
calamity.  The North Texas chapter of PACC Texas quickly offered the safety of their homes to Filipinos in south and central
Texas even before Hurricane Harvey made landfall.  Chapter Chairperson Myrna Carreon announced the collection of relief
goods and plans for fund-raisers to assist with the rescue and rehabilitation of the hurricane victims.

The Dallas-based Honorary Consulate headed by Honorary Consul Ethel R. Mercado is monitoring the situation round-the-
clock, reaching out to Filipinos in the devastated areas and regularly updating the Philippine government officials through
the Consulate General in Los Angeles. The honorary consulate also fields dozens of phone calls every day inquiring about
the hurricane and how it has affected Filipinos in the region. Some are trying to locate relatives and friends who may have
been affected.
PACC Dallas officers with Hurricane victim Albert
Saligumba who survived the hurricane by
staying on his rooftop for two days prior to being
rescued
.
Filipino-owned Datalogix Texas Inc., a major AT&T
telecommunications contractor, has fielded its San-Antonio based cell
tower engineers to the affected cities, delivering generators to areas
that had lost electricity and cell power, and fixing damaged tower sites,
or replacing downed towers with Cellsites on Wheels (COWs).
Datalogix engineers, mostly Filipinos and Mexican cell site engineers,
quickly responded to the disaster, long before the flood waters
receded. Their heroism is reminiscent of what they did to restore and
rehabilitate Louisiana and the Texas Gulf Coast after the massive
destruction wrought by hurricane Katrina in 2005. The heroic Filipino
engineers volunteered to risk personal safety wading through waist-
deep flood waters, with no food, gasoline or hotel rooms for hundreds
of miles. Working on cell towers at the tail-end of a hurricane is a death-
defying job.

The officers of the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of the
Rio Grande Valleyled by Rev. Merpu Roa quickly volunteered to join the
About the Author:
Gus Mercado has been a Filipino community leader in Texas for 35 years. He is currently State
Executive Director of PACC Texas, Chair Emeritus of NaFFAA Region VI, and Chairman-CEO of
Datalogix Texas Inc. He is a recipient of the prestigious Presidential Banaag Award in 2014.